Philautia Love Definition Essay

What is your experience of love?

When you speak of love do you think of your partner, your children, your mother a friend, do you remember past hurts, current joys?

A while ago I wrote a blog entitled: It’s all about love or the lack thereof,  I made reference to the 7 definitions (7 expressions) that the Ancient Greeks used to philosophise about love. In this blog I’ve decided to reflect more deeply on the subject – will you join me in this exploration by adding some of your own thoughts ?

7 Expressions of Love

1. Storge

Storge literally means affection, and this term is used to describe the love between parents and children, children and their parents, and between exceptionally close friends.

It denotes unconditional love between those with a strong affectionate bond between them.
Storge is often used in conjunction with empathy, which means you can feel another’s plight; can put yourself in their shoes and be alongside them through painful and joyous times.
Storage doesn’t mean that you have to “put up” with situations, it sometimes involves us letting others know clearly, how we experience the impact of their behaviour.

How is unconditional love showing up in your life?

2. Eros

Eros is the root word for “erotic” and was the name of the Greek god who fired “love arrows” also known as Cupid by the Romans. Quite evidently, Eros is mostly today, associated with an intoxicated form of romantic love. In the time of the Ancient Greek’s the definition was much broader than this. Eros described the feeling of blissful love, being lost in sensual pleasures, and the awakening of creative potential. It represented a connection to life, clearly opposite to Thanatos, which is death.

Botticelli’s Primava

Botticelli’s painting of the Primavera shows all of these aspects of love and life in his painting.

Eros is the love energy of life. This exists within us from our birth to the grave. In early childhood Eros showed up when you gazed into your mother’s eyes and gurgled. Eros is the sense of blissful intoxication from warm milk and cuddles, and the gentle wind that caresses your skin.

It is the relaxed feeling of floating in warm water and the joy of the sweet perfume of jasmine flowers.

The first 9 months of life are purely “vivencial” (which means we live each moment, fully present) We taste the smell of flowers and sense every bump and crack of the wooden spoon that enters our mouth. The body reacts in sensation, to holding, to touch, to smell, to sound.
Eros nourishes and restores balance, it is rejuvenating; life serving, expansive, peaceful, and joyous.

We grow and develop physically and so does our thinking mind. It is the busy-ness of our judgements and a mistrust of the world that overrides Eros. This can disconnect us from our sensory nature and the wisdom of body – a human tragedy.
To maintain openness to Eros and our sensory experience as young people and as adults, we must slow down, breathe calmly, focus and savour what it is that we see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and touch. This slowing down and reconnection to our nature opens the heart as well as the mind. Eros is mindful, instinctive, emotional and sensory. It is a connection to all that is alive NOW in each moment.

Are you experiencing Eros in your adult relationships?

How are you enjoying sensory awareness with your children –  listening to the wind, feeling the warmth of the sunshine, smelling the flowers, tasting honey ?

I was in the woods with some children last week, I invited them to be silent, to listen to the stillness – “wow” said one young teenager, I have never done that before!

3. Philia

Philia, used literally in ancient Greek, describes the form of love between close friends: brotherly love, comradeship, solidarity. There is a feeling of delight when in the company of each other; common interests are present; and interdependence exists (meaning you support each other but are not dependent on each other). It is the direct opposite of phobia.

Brotherhood is the very price and condition of man’s survival C. Romulo

Philia love grows steadily over time when firm foundations are laid, and the house is built stone by stone. It is a term used in the New Testament of the Bible to describe compassionate love between Christians and can be the underpinning for long-term relationships in the romantic sense.

The term “philia” is used also, today, in some compound words to describe negative alliances those of an ABNORMAL NATURE. An example is in words such as pedophelia and necrophilia, which mean “friend of child” and “friend of the dead,” respectively. Sadly, the term “friend” used in these contexts shows a real sickness. And the term“brotherhood” is used in our language and culture today, to illustrate both positive and negative alliances too.

Friendships and a healthy sense of brotherhood emerge during childhood and develop when children feel safe, confident and loved.

If, instead of kindness and care, our need for love and connection, is met with actions that cause intense fear, confusion and/or early sexualisation the long-term damage can be devastating both to individuals and to society.

How are you experiencing Philia in your relationships, at work, at home?

What do you appreciate about yourself and others in friendly relationships?

Have you ever experienced a situation when someone misread your friendship?

Are there some things about this aspect of your life that you would like to change?

How are you supporting your children with their friendships – with care, kindness, boundaries, trust?


Ludus is actually a Latin word, not Greek at all, yet many mention it in their texts when referring to the Greek definitions of love. The translation of Ludus in Greek is “Paignidi,” which means “game.” Positively, this means playfulness. This is the other side of the coin, is not always positive, it applies to teasing, lying, cheating, and deceiving.

Children love to play; it’s in their very nature, and we are born with this capacity. We adults, can learn from them. They play with ease and innocence, experimenting, role playing, creating, and discovering. Their play is spontaneous, free from rules and from the worry of being right or wrong, winning or losing. Play is creativity in action.

It’s important to have a sense of fun and playfulness at home and at work. To play with our children in pre-schools and later in school. Also in our adult romantic relationships and friendships; with playfulness arises affection, contact, and connection. We create bonds with each other and build trust.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. -George Bernard Shaw

What does being playful mean to you?

How does play feature in your life at work and at home?

Have you had experiences of play that haven’t been much fun?

What are some of the ways you might be more playful in your life?

What can children teach you about play?

5. Philautia

Philautia relates to self-love. The Greeks recognized two types of Philautia:
Positive = High esteem, self compassion.
Negative = Narcissistic, feeling superior to others, arrogant and egotistical.

The Greek God Narcissus became so obsessed by his own reflection that he fell into a lake and drowned.
Having esteem and self compassion is not about being SO introspective that we no longer see ourselves. It’s about having self awareness – self love, a strong sense of your worth and purpose in the world. Not  selfish – “self-full” – mindful of self in relation to others, giving from a place of fullness inside of ourselves; receiving others compassionately; having a strong sense of identity.

“All friendly feelings for others are an extension of man’s feelings for himself – Aristotle

If you experienced environments that were kind and loving, those that nourished your wellbeing, especially during your earliest years, it is likely that self care and compassion is easier for you to practice, if the opposite is true, it may take some effort to re-connect to self love.  Philautia is absolutely fundamental to us being able to experience the fullness of love.

How is your self worth?

On a scale of 1 to 10, do you know what matters to you in life, what you value, and why is it that these things are important to you?

What do you love and what do you hate?

What are your gifts, strengths, and talents?

How are you sharing your gifts and talents in the world?

How easy is it for you to be in partnership and collaboration with others, to hear others and work together?

How do you manage comments from others that you receive as critical?

Here is a questionnaire that you might find useful to assess your level of esteem

How are you supporting children to celebrate the qualities they express?

6. Pragma

Pragma in Greek means “the thing.” Pragmatic is the adjective of the noun Pragma, meaning realistic action. We might define Pragma love as mature, rational, deep, and understanding. It is the root term used for reality, and comes from, and it is what we see and what we touch.
Pragma love may be applied to those who have been together in a marriage or partnership for many years and have been through many situations together and come through them with more wisdom. Their commitment to the love in the relationship is about giving as well as receiving. The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said that we expend too much energy on “falling in love” and need to learn more how to “stand in love.”

How much wisdom have you gained through “pragma(tic) love”?

7. Agape

Agape in Ancient Greece was included in Eros. Christianity separated Agape from Eros and described it as an entity in itself, as a selfless form of love that can be extended to all people. Agape translated into Latin the word is “caritas” which is the origin of the word charity. John Stott defines agape love as the sacrifice of self in the service of another. In other words, it is a voluntary giving of yourself. C.S. Lewis refers to it as “gift love” the highest form of Christian love. It also appears in other religious traditions, such as in the idea of mettā or “universal loving kindness” in Theravāda Buddhism.

Agape recognizes the human sameness between us, a oneness with each other. It evolves out of our innate capacity to feel each other’s plight, and also to move beyond this into compassionate, transcendent, spiritual love for all of life. Robert Krznark, an Australian cultural thinker passionate about raising levels of empathy in cultures says that there is “growing evidence that agape is in a dangerous decline in many countries.” 

We have made incredible technological advances during this last decade. But how much have we evolved emotionally, compassionately and spiritually?

We live in a world where there are those who can eat and those who starve, those who wear diamonds and those who are blown up for mining them.

How is Agape being expressed in your life?

We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis on a global scale – How are you feeling about this?

Love is personal, interpersonal, collective and spiritual, it is a journey to be explored and a mystery to be lived. In my experience it is an amazingly wonderful and complex energy that grows within us and around us. It is the discovery of ourselves and the delight in recognition says Alexander Smith. Victor Hugo says that “Life is a flower of which love is the honey.” I like this..

Monopoly on Love

None of us has a monopoly on what love is or about the way that it is expressed. We all learn and recognize that, in fact, the struggles we have in life and in the world are about love continually wanting to teach us about itself.

Are you open to the heartfelt mysteries of love?

This blog is dedicated to my children and grandchildren

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Filed Under: Education, Home, Mindful LivingTagged With: agape, eros, love, phlia, relationships, store

Self-love has often been seen as a moral flaw, akin to vanity and selfishness.[1] The Merriam-Webster dictionary later describes self-love as to "love of self" or "regard for one's own happiness or advantage". Synonyms of this concept are: amour propre, conceit, conceitedness, egotism, and many more. However, throughout the centuries this definition has adopted a more positive connotation through self-love protests, the Hippie era, the new agefeminist movement as well as the increase in mental health awareness that promotes self-love.

Traditional views[edit]

Cicero considered those who were sui amantes sine rivali (lovers of themselves without rivals) were doomed to end in failure – a theme adopted by Francis Bacon in his condemnation of extreme self-lovers, who would burn down their own home, only to roast themselves an egg.[2]

Self-love was first recognized in 1563 but was only later studied by philosophers William James and Erich Fromm, who studied emotional human behaviour, such as self-esteem and self-worth. However, it was later defined in 1956 by psychologist and social philosopherErich Fromm, who proposed that loving oneself is different from being arrogant, conceited or egocentric, meaning that instead caring about oneself and taking responsibility for oneself.

However, Augustine – with his theology of evil as a mere distortion of the good – considered that the sin of pride was only a perversion of a normal, more modest degree of self-love.[3]

Twentieth century re-interpretations[edit]

Eric Fromm proposed a re-evaluation of self-love in more positive sense, arguing that in order to be able to truly love another person, a person first needs to love oneself in the way of respecting oneself and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one's strengths and weaknesses).[4][5]

Erik H. Erikson similarly wrote of a post-narcissistic appreciation of the value of the ego,[6] while Carl Rogers saw one result of successful therapy as the regaining of a quiet sense of pleasure in being one's own self.[7]

Self-love or self-worth was later defined by A.P. Gregg and C. Sedikides in 2003 as "referring to a person's subjective appraisal of himself or herself as intrinsically positive or negative". Robert H. Wozniak described William James's theory of self-esteem and claimed that self-love was measured in "... three different but interrelated aspects of self: the material self (all those aspects of material existence in which we feel a strong sense of ownership, our bodies, our families, our possessions), the social self (our felt social relations), and the spiritual self (our feelings of our own subjectivity)".[8]

Mental health[edit]

Mental health was first described by William Sweetser (1797–1875) as the maintenance of "mental hygiene". His analysis was demonstrated in his essay "Temperance Society" published August 26, 1930, which claimed that regular maintenance of mental hygiene created a positive impact on the well-being of individuals and the community as well.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, there have been 44,193 suicides in 2015 alone, 5,491 of them being youth aged between 15–24 years old.[9] The number of teenager and young adult suicides are escalating at an alarming rate every year, further demonstrating that the social environment has an impact on mental health conditions. The association conducted a study in 2008 which researched the impact of low self-esteem and lack of self-love and its relation to suicidal tendencies and attempts. They defined self-love as being "beliefs about oneself (self-based self-esteem)[10] and beliefs about how other people regard oneself (other-based self-esteem)".[10] It concluded that "depression, hopelessness, and low self-esteem are implications of vulnerability factors for suicide ideation" and that "these findings suggest that even in the context of depression and hopelessness, low self-esteem may add to the risk for suicide ideation".



Self-love was first promoted in the early years of the Hippie era (also known as the Beat Generation of the 1960s). After witnessing the devastating consequences of World War II and having troops still fighting in the Vietnam War, western (especially North American) societies began promoting "peace and love"[disambiguation needed] to help generate positive energy and to promote the preservation of dissipating environmental factors, such as the emergence of oil pipelines and the recognition of pollution caused by the greenhouse effect.

These deteriorating living conditions caused worldwide protests that primarily focused on ending the war, but secondarily promoted a positive environment aided by the fundamental concept of crowd psychology. This post-war community was left very vulnerable to persuasion but began encouraging freedom, harmony and the possibility of a brighter, non-violent future. These protests took place on almost all continents and included countries such as the United States (primarily New York City and California), England and Australia. Their dedication, perseverance and empathy towards human life defined this generation as being peace advocates and carefree souls.

The emergence of the feminist movement began as early as the 19th century, but only began having major influence during the second wave movement, which included women's rights protests that inevitably led to women gaining the right to vote. These protests not only promoted equality but also suggested that women should recognize their self-worth through the knowledge and acceptance of self-love. Elizabeth Cady Stanton used the Declaration of Independence as a guideline to demonstrate that women have been harshly treated throughout the centuries in her feminist essay titled "Declaration of Sentiments". In the essay she claims that "all men and women are created equal; ... that among these [rights] are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness";[11] and that without these rights, the capacity to feel self-worth and self-love is scarce. This historical essay suggests that a lack of self-esteem and fear of self-love affects modern women due to lingering post-industrial gender conditions.

Self-love has also been used as a radical tool in communities of Color in the United States. In the 1970s Black-Power movement, the slogan "Black is beautiful!" became a way for African-Americans to throw off the mantle of predominately White beauty norms. The dominant cultural aesthetic pre-1970s was to straighten Black hair with a perm or hot comb. During the Black Power movement, the "afro" or "fro" became the popular hairstyle. It involved letting Black Hair grow naturally, without chemical treatment, so as to embrace and flaunt the extremely curly hair texture of Black people. Hair was teased out the hair using a pick. The goal was to cause the hair to form a halo around the head, flaunting the Blackness of its wearer. This form of self-love and empowerment during the 70s was a way for African-Americans to combat the stigma against their natural hair texture, which was, and still is, largely seen as unprofessional in the modern workplace.

Modern platforms[edit]

The emergence of new technology has given society an easier way to communicate with one another and research faster. Social media has created a platform for self-love promotion and mental health awareness in order to end the stigma surrounding mental health and to address self-love positively rather than negatively.

A few modern examples of self-love promotion platforms include:

Literary references[edit]

Beck, Bhar, Brown & Ghahramanlou‐Holloway (2008). "Self-Esteem and Suicide Ideation in Psychiatric Outpatients". Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior 38.

Malvolio is described as "sick of self-love...a distempered appetite" in Twelfth Night (I.v.85-6), lacking self-perspective.[12]

Self-love or self-worth was later defined by A.P. Gregg and C. Sedikides in 2003.[8][13][14]

See also[edit]

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Self-love


  1. ^B. Kirkpatrick ed., Roget's Thesaurus (1998) p. 592 and p. 639
  2. ^Francis Bacon, The Essays (1985) p. 131
  3. ^D. Sayers, Dante: Purgatory (1971) p. 66-7
  4. ^The Art of Loving (1956) by Erich Fromm. Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-091594-0.
  5. ^"How to Stop Beating Yourself Up and Start Loving Yourself More | Build The Fire". Build The Fire. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  6. ^Erik H. Erikson, Childhood and Society (1964) p. 260
  7. ^Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person (1961) p. 87-8
  8. ^ abWozniak, R. H. (1999) Introduction to The Principles of Psychology. Classics in Psychology, 1855-1914: Historical Essays.
  9. ^Drapeau, C. W., & McIntosh, J. L. (for the American Association of Suicidology). (2016). U.S.A. suicide 2015: Official final data.
  10. ^ abBeck, Bhar, Brown & Ghahramanlou‐Holloway (2008). "Self-Esteem and Suicide Ideation in Psychiatric Outpatients". Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 38.
  11. ^Anthony S.B., M.J. Cage & Stanton, E.C. (1889). A History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 1
  12. ^L. Anderson, A Kind of Wild Justice (1987) p. 116-8
  13. ^Sedikides, C. & Gregg. A. P. (2003). "Portraits of the self"
  14. ^Hogg, M. A. & J. Cooper. Sage handbook of social psychology.
  • Shaw, Bershan (2009), Self Love Expert, New York: 68 Jay St, Brooklyn, New York 12001 

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